I recently tried out a bunch of Ski helmets while visiting Heavenly in Lake Tahoe. I thought the Smith Optics Vantage ski helmet was the best of the lot, followed up closely by the Smith Variant. In the US, there’s roughly a $20-40 difference between them.
I’ve skied most of my life without a snow helmet, so using one for the first time made me feel stupid. However, skiing is a dangerous sport and injury statistics tell me that I was the one being stupid for not wearing one.
Once I got used to it, I was very happy to wear it. Not only does it increase my safety but it helps keep the head warm. I’ve already had a concussion from head-butting a boulder when I was a lad, so I felt more secure wearing helmet.
Let’s face it, most of the ski helmets out there make you look like a dork. Some more than others. At least the Smith line has a bit of flair and helps make me feel less dorky.
The Vantage was by far the lightest helmet of the lot. It barely feels like it’s on your head – like wearing an egg carton, as opposed to a hard-hat. It has a lot of venting options to aerate your head. The inside roof of the helmet is composed of lots of different spongy meshes that can be pulled out and cleaned, if necessary. Then, there are two sliders on the top of the helmet that allow you to easily pop open different vents to allow air to circulate around your head if you are overheating. The pouches that cover your ears also allow you to pop in ear buds for your sound system and zip them up. Nice touch.
The Variant is very similar to the Vantage. The main differences: it is noticeably heavier, has different venting options that are a tad less elegant, and it doesn’t have the ear bud sound system support.
Both ski helmets have a way to clip your goggles to them on the back – so you don’t lose your goggles – and I would have to say that the Variant has a slightly better solution in this regard: a leather strap that snaps down firmly vs. a flimsy bungy cord on the Vantage that slots into a receptacle (which it can easily slip out of).
For the small price difference, though, I would go for the Vantage, because it’s lighter, a little cooler and has the sound system support (even though listening to audio while skiing probably increases your chances of having an accident and cancels out the benefit of wearing a helmet…)
Smith Optics Vantage Ski Helmet
Smith Variant Ski Helmet
EDITORS NOTE: So, I took a lesson with a ski instructor to brush up my form and style and he went on and on about how fantastic the POC helmets were. He was particularly impressed by their mission to save lives – as opposed to making fashion pieces – and the history of how the founder of the company came from VOLVO and lost his own son to a head injury… hence the company’s mission and commitment to excellence. I will need to do a little more research into this but here are some links that might be useful: